Notes: Reinforcements arrive

Notes: Reinforcements arrive

CHICAGO -- As Barry Bonds walked into the tiny -- and crowded -- visitors clubhouse at Wrigley Field on Friday, he called it "a tight squeeze."

That's what happens Sept. 1, when rosters can be expanded, and joining the Giants this day were seven new players: outfielders Jason Ellison and Fred Lewis, first baseman Lance Niekro, catcher Justin Knoedler, plus left-handed starter Jonathan Sanchez and right-handed reliever Brian Wilson, all from Triple-A Fresno, and right-handed reliever Scott Munter from Double-A Connecticut.

Giants manager Felipe Alou, however, indicated there won't be a lot of playing time for the newcomers during this final month unless the team quickly falls out of contention in the National League West.

"As long as this is reachable, we'll play the team that was put together to make it reachable," said Alou, whose Giants are tied for fourth in the Wild Card race (behind leader San Diego) and third in the West heading into Friday's opener of a three-game series here.

After an earlier 72-game stint in San Francisco, Ellison had a sensational 46 games at Fresno, batting .406 with 18 doubles, a homer and 18 RBIs.

"I worked hard and tried to prove that I don't need to be there any more," said Ellison, who started only 12 Giants games. "I think it was great to play every day -- it's been awhile since I've been able to do that. It was good for me and I found my stroke."

Niekro, on the disabled list twice with the Giants -- right shoulder bursitis and right groin strain -- hit .253 as a starter before being sent to the Grizzlies on July 16.

Veteran first sacker Shea Hillenbrand has since been acquired, but the 27-year-old Niekro feels his play in Fresno helped in not only rediscovering his power stroke but learning the mental side of the big leagues.

"I was struggling here and kind of playing out of my game," said Niekro of his Giants action. "I was taking my at-bats out on the field with me. I went down there and had a reality check and figured things out."

Niekro said little things bothered him and he was frustrated, but he didn't realize that until he was demoted to Triple-A. His father, former Major League pitcher Joe Niekro, also gave him solid advice.

"When I was going down to Fresno, my dad called and said he had five years in the big leagues when he was sent down," said Niekro, who hit .319 with 14 homers at Fresno. "He said it was something that can happen and you can go about it two ways -- be mad about everything or go down there and say you have something to prove."

Welcome to The Show: Lewis, 25, put on a Major League uniform for the first time Friday and was admittedly excited.

"I was just hoping to get here, period," said Lewis, not worrying about playing time. "I am happy to be here and help when I can. I'm tickled to death, and my family is proud of me. I'm ready to do what I need to do.

"I can't say what will happen next year, but I'm happy to be here now," said Lewis, who hit .276 with the Grizzlies, including 11 triples, 12 homers and 18 stolen bases.

Fast turnaround: In a scheduling quirk, the Giants played a night game in Atlanta on Thursday, then a day game in Chicago on Friday, forcing the club to arrive at their hotel at around 2:30 a.m. local time.

"It's not the Mexican Leagues," said Alou, who noted the Giants had their usual advance meeting about the Cubs on Thursday instead of prior to the Friday contest.

Minor League honors: Roberto Kelly, manager at Class A Augusta, has been named South Atlantic League Manager of the Year, while Steve Decker of short-season Class A Salem-Keizer tied for managerial honors in the short-season Northwest League.

Augusta second baseman Eugenio Valez was named league MVP and made the SAL All-Star team. The GreenJackets won the Southern Division second-half title.

At Salem-Keizer, three Volcanoes were named to the All-Star squad: second baseman Emmanuel Burriss, right-handed starter Adam Cowart and right-handed reliever Juan Trinidad. The team won the Western Division title and won a franchise-best 12 straight game Thursday night. The Volcanoes have also won 22 of their last 23 contests with six games remaining.

Shortstop Sharlon Schoop and right-handed reliever David Newton of the Scottsdale Giants were named to the Arizona Summer League All-Star team. Newton led the rookie Arizona League in saves with 13.

Coming up: Giants right-hander Matt Cain (10-9, 4.32 ERA), who faces Chicago in Saturday's 11:20 a.m. PT contest at Wrigley Field, has pitched well over his last 19 outings, logging a 9-4 mark and 3.38 ERA. The Cubs will go with left-hander Sean Marshall (5-8, 4.98).

Rich Draper is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.